One team that is really intriguing me this year in Major League Baseball is the Houston Astros. The Astros have been a struggling team in the National League for the last half dozen years since they appeared in the World Series in 2005. This year is going to look completely different from anything the Astros have ever done. They changed colors, changed logos, changed jerseys, changed managers and something that doesn’t happen too often, they changed leagues. They moved from the National League Central into the American League West Division. This move will even the teams in each league to 15 instead of having 16 in the NL and 14 in the AL. There is a different style of playing in each division so the whole organization will have to change their ways from the Front Office Personnel to the coaches to the players. They are also moving into a division that had the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers who both made the playoffs last season. Along with those two teams they are going to have to play a revamped Seattle Mariners lineup and a Los Angeles Angels team that has the 4th highest payroll in the Majors with a 152 million dollar whose best player is only getting paid $510,000. The Astros have a lot of young players that have good potential and a few that could be future stars in the league. They will struggle this year but hopefully it will be a good stepping stone for a successful future.
Jose Altuve will be the full time 2nd baseman. He is a 22 year old that has potential through the roof. He hit .290 in his first full season in the Majors and also added 33 stolen bases. He won’t hit for power but will be a valuable part of a team going through a transition. Brett Wallace can play 1st or 3rd but will be getting the most of the 1st base starting spots. He isn’t exactly the prototypical American League 1st basemen who will hit for a lot of power. He has only hit 16 home runs in his short 232 game career but he should hit for a pretty good average and will be a good defensive player. Chris Carter is a guy that the Astros just received in a trade for shortstop Jed Lowrie. Carter has the potential to hit for a lot of power and do damage with the stick, especially in Minute Maid Park. He will probably play in Left Field but can also play Right field or 1st base. Carlos Pena is the most well-known player on this Astros club and will be the full time DH but could also play 1st. He owns a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove as well as an All-Star appearance. He will strikeout a lot and won’t hit for a good average but when he makes contact it will go far. The combo of Carter and Pena should produce a lot of HR and RBI’s.
The rest of the lineup will probably be filled out by Jason Castro, Justin Maxwell, Matt Dominguez, Ronny Cedeno, JD Martinez, Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez, as well as some others. Castro, Dominguez and JD Martinez are a few of the higher potential players that could make a huge impact this year. Bud Norris is going to be their ace but the rest of their pitching staff will be very suspect. I learned today that they will probably go with an unconventional pitching strategy using a eight man rotation for the first couple months. Using one pitching for the first half of the game and then one for the second half if they do well. After a few months they will then reevaluate who can show the team something good from there. The Astros should be very solid defensively but will struggle at the plate. I do think that they will finish at the bottom of the AL West but should be a contender with development among their lineup and additions to their pitching staff in the next few years. They will be one of the teams that I am definitely going to keep my eye on this year, as well as rooting for them to succeed.
I am Benjamin Brown, thank you for reading my article about the Houston Astros, if you would like to read other articles about baseball please check out my other articles.
The USA team came up short in their first game against Mexico, 5-2. RA Dickey got the start for Team USA and Yovani Gallardo for Team Mexico. Gallardo pitched 3 1/3 innings and struck out four batters while giving up 1 run in the win. Dickey pitched 4 innings giving up four runs and getting the lost in his first ever World Baseball Classic appearance.
Team Mexico came out strong in the 1st inning manufacturing two runs on two hits. Luiz Crus hit a Sac Fly and Adrian Gonzalez adding another RBI on a ground out. Gonzalez wasn’t done producing after that because in his next at bat in the 3rd inning he hit a 2 run home run to put Team Mexico up 4-0. The bottom 3rd of Team USA’s lineup was struggling, not getting a hit in the game and striking out 4 times combined. Mauer, Wright and Rollins each had 2 hits a piece with Hosmer and Braun getting one each. The USA lineup left 20 runners on base and only scored 2 runs. They came out looking flat and looked like they took it too easy. Hopefully after the upset loss they will get a little urgency in their lineup and get some runs going.
They need to come back tonight in the game against 2-0 Italy. Ryan Vogelsong is going to be the starter on the mound for Team USA. This is a must win situation in order for them to advance into the 2nd round of the tournament. The team needs to be able to manufacture runs and play small ball. Most of their players look like they are trying to be the hero and win the game by themselves. Hopefully Joe Torre will get them into shape tonight against the Italians. Tonight’s game is at 9:00 on the MLB Network.
The Minnesota Twins used to be a perennial Central Division Winner, winning the Division 6 times from 2002 to 2010. That was until they have finished 5th each time in the last two years. They still have a great heart of the lineup but there are lacking in the other areas of their lineup as well as pitching. They traded away two very good defensive outfielders in Denard Span and Ben Revere but did get some good pitching in return. One of those is 25 year old Vance Worley who will be their Opening Day starter. I think that they should have kept either Span or Revere to keep the leadoff spot and centerfield position stable for a while. Here is what I think will suit the Twins best throughout this year.
1. CF Darin Mastroianni – doesn’t have much experience in CF or in the league, only 78 games, but is their best option right now.
2. 2nd Jamey Carrol – 39 year old who hit .268 last year but the two years before with LA he hit .290 and .291. Not sure how many more years he has but will give the Twins something to plug in to develop other players such as Brian Dozier, who will get some playing time this season.
3. C Joe Mauer – one of the best players in the league, doesn’t hit for power but knows exactly what to do with the ball and how to do it
4. LF Josh Willingham – a great addition who had a big year last year, 35 HR’s and 110 RBI’s, and was one of the bright spots in the year.
5. 1st Justin Morneau – last year was his first full year back since his concussion and he struggled a bit but showed signs of the Justin Morneau of old, hopefully he will get back to what he was.
6. DH Ryan Doumit – another great addition to the lineup who can play 1st, RF or catch. Will be their DH to start the year but will be a great guy to have with his ability to give Mauer, Morneau and Parmelee breaks without changing the lineup
7. 3rd Trevor Plouffe – another guy who can play multiple positions, 3rd, SS and RF. Hit 24 HR’s last year but didn’t hit them in a timely matter. 18 of the 24 were solo home runs and only 5 of the 24 were after the All Star break.
8. RF Chris Parmelee – only played in 64 games last year and hit .229. He will start in RF but can also play 1st. A good contact hitter that is disciplined and will hit line drives to the gap.
9. SS Pedro Florimon – will be the Twins 8th opening day SS in the last 8 years. Great defensive player that will struggle at the plate.
I think that the Twins are going to stay at the bottom of the AL Central especially with the offseason moves that the Royals and Indians made. Their pitching staff is arguably the worst in the Division even with the addition of Worley. The heart of the order is pretty good but they won’t be able to carry the rest of the lineup.
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